Derived from the AS 350 Ecureuil, the PT-1 prototype first flew (unannounced) in June 1999 and was registered F-WQEV in May 2000.
The design is as for the AS 350B3, but considerably modified external appearance, with windscreen side panels, doors and landing gear from EC 120, plus Fenestron based on EC 135, although symmetrical, carried by redesigned tailboom. The dual hydraulic system is from the AS 355N. Cabin width was increased by 25cm to give an additional 23% internal space, accommodating seven or eight seats and enlarged (10%) baggage compartment.
Power is one 543kW Turbomeca Arriel 2B1 turboshaft with transmission rated at 632kW for T-O, with FADEC. Fuel capacity 540 litres in single tank. The EC-130 retains the AS 355B3 engine and transmission, but automatic system (in conjunction with dual-channel FADEC, plus third, digital, back-up channel) matches rotor speed to flight conditions for noise reduction. The 84.3 EPNdB flyover rating is 7 dB below ICAO limit and 0.5 dB under special Grand Canyon National Park restrictions achieved by use of parabolic rotor tips.
A second prototype (F-WQES) assisted in a 200 hour test programme, including high-altitude testing in Albuquerque, USA, in September 2000.
With dual controls, accommodation is for a pilot and up to seven passengers in a transport role, or pilot and one or two stretcher patients plus two medical attendants in casualty evacuation configuration.
JAA certification was achieved on 14 December 2000, and FAA certification on 21 December 2000. The EC-130 was revealed only in February 2001, when initial production aircraft (also 3,000th of Ecureuil family) were handed over to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters at HeliExpo. Four preproduction helicopters were delivered to the launch customers in the first half of 2001.
The initial production version, the EC-130B4, has a dual-channel FADEC (full authority digital electronic control) unit and a third, independent channel for engine control. The engine is the Turbomeca Arriel 2B1 turbine (the same as that fitted to the AS 350 B3, sans the FADEC system), which gives a maximum shaft horsepower at take-off of 847. The Arriel drives a Starflex-type main rotor, the speed of which is automatically varied to reduce noise, giving a fast cruise speed of 127 knots, a maximum take-off weight of 2,400 kg and a useful load of 1030 kg, and a range at this weight of 345 nm. Equipment includes a 4.5kW 28V DC starter-generator, 15 Ah batteryand a 28V DC cabin outlet.
Announced orders included Blue Hawaiian (10 in 2001), Rocky Mountain Helicopters (10 in 2001), Mont Blanc Helicopteres (two) and five to UK customers. Deliveries started in June 2001 and totalled 10 in 2001 and 30 in 2002. The cost in 2002 was US$1.6 million.